Recently, one of my colleagues shared a really good article with me entitled High-Trust Networks and High-Performing Teams. It’s not a golf article, but the author Geoffrey Moore shares some significant applications I believe line up with our as PGA professionals. In the article, the difference between a High-Trust Network (HTN) and a Low-Trust Network (LTN) are discussed.

The best way to learn what a high-trust network is may be to consider its more prolific counterpart: the low-trust network. What signs, symptoms and issues abound in a low-trust network? Low-trust networks use much of their resources in control and management of negatives and failures.  Moreover, there are strict “check-ins,” micro-supervision, little delegation and many regulations disguised as “boundaries.”  LTNs are expensive to our facilities, our bottom line and generally in a “state of entropy” (eg. ready to fall apart, or on the best day, barely holding together.) How are they expensive?

  • Expensive in terms of human resources (draining/sapping on high performers who feel stifled by the supervision, regulations and related);
    • Staff in LTNs waste valuable time looking for ways to get the credit, make sure someone else doesn’t get the credit OR gets the blame, etc.
  • Expensive in terms of opportunity (this one is the hardest to quantify.) What does it cost an organization when we have to spend so much time “counting what we’re doing” instead of doing what counts? How many times are great opportunities missed because the group has their head down “towing the line, filling out the forms” etc.

High-trust teams and networks take leadership, work and collaboration. A huge part of the Golden State Warriors’ success is their high-trust network! If Steph didn’t trust the player he’s about to pass the ball to, he won’t pass it (he’d just force it) and they won’t get the open shot the team needs. Their teammate trust shows up in all facets of the game…passing, team defense and unselfish hustle. The Warriors win as a team…they lead each other, hold each other accountable and encourage each other.

In light of the above, I started to think about how you or I could recognize whether we are part of a high trust network or a low trust at work.

  • Are you a free rider? Do you have a free rider in your team?
  • A “free rider” as defined by Geoffrey Moore: “Someone who enjoys the empowerment of being in a high-trust network but does not contribute the extra capability or effort necessary to achieve extraordinary outcomes.  The network itself will identify this person and “route around them,” so that in the short term you can still get lots of good work done.  But if the situation is allowed to persist, the rest of the team will get tired and then resentful of this overhead tax on their efforts, and performance will drop.  The intervention is simple: the team leader must simply expel the free rider from the team. Empowerment comes with responsibility—if you don’t deliver, you’re out.”
  • Takeaways for our golf facilities:
    • Another term for “free-rider” is a parasite, blood sucker, etc. Leadership owes it to the group to “cut off” or “cut out” the free-rider.
    • Or empower and trust “peer level leaders” to speak up (and then follow through with full support) of these leaders when they deal with the free-riders.
    • Leaders owe it to the group to have no “easy hires” to ensure no free-riders are added to the team. Peer level leaders should be chosen to vet out the ‘new blood’ candidates to ensure they’re not free-riders.
    • Love the “empowerment comes with responsibility” line: you don’t owe delivery just to your employer (check signer), you owe it to your whole team and anyone your team can affect through its performance, productivity
  • Are you a low-trust operator? Do you have low-trust operators on your team?

Geoffrey Moore defines a low-trust operator as:  “This person is not untrustworthy—they are simply low trust.  At the margin, that is, they will hoard resources, sand-bag performance objectives, and take credit wherever they can, not because they are bad people but because they assume that is what everybody else does.  Often these people are extremely competent and can get a ton of stuff done, so again, in the short term this can work out OK.  Longer term, however, they undermine the high-trust network culture, diminishing its capacity and performance, so again, they have to be identified and expelled.”

  • More takeaways for our golf facilities  
    • A low-trust operator is like someone who thinks others in the golf shop will steal. They assume everyone else will steal because they are likely to do so.
    • A scarcity mindset is intrinsic for a low-trust operator. They win, I lose.
    • “Crab-bucket syndrome” behaviors are readily apparent when you look closer.
    • Low-trust operators may not have always been this way. It could’ve been trained (or scared) into them in past employment. They may have a hard time letting others get credit, or showing their weaknesses because they may assume said weaknesses will be used against them in the future.
    • Managing up, “building up an image of productivity” and team play rather than actually doing it. Politicizing rather than producing.

So right now, if you’re in a leadership position or close to it, you’re really starting to feel the heat. Like the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, you’re going to be finding out what your team is “made up of.” Are we a high-trust network where we succeed as a team or are we a collection of free-riders, low-trust operators who are fine until the “heat of the finals” really hits us?

Being part of a successful, high-trust team is not something that comes easily but it is certainly a worthy goal. If you have the makings of this kind of team, let your high-trust operator become who they can be through supportive empowerment. Give them, solicit from them, “360* peer review” style feedback on the whole team, on yourself, on themselves and then compare the notes. Use language of trust, accountability and respect in every situation possible as speaking these language cues will set up your team/your peers to do the same with each other.

Let’s have a great golf season in 2017, and build some great high-trust teams too…(Go Warriors!)

If there’s anything I can do to assist you, your team or your facility with these concepts; or in adding value to your PGA career, through coaching on applying player development and/or professional development principles, please don’t hesitate to reach out at your earliest convenience.

Monte Koch, Certified PGA Professional/Player Development
Player Development Regional Mgr/Mentor**
PGA of America (Greater Seattle/PacNW PGA Section)
Email:  Cell: 206/335-5260